Rabbi B’s Blog – Visiting Mourners: Before You Enter

Past Chevre, Rabbi Baruch HaLevi, recently opened up on the subject of Mourning with Meaning and being “fine” after loss (Read the full post here).  In response to many comments, he added the following words which we thought worth sharing with you: Visiting Mourners: Before You Enter My last blog stirred up some issues. Clearly there are lots of emotions surrounding mourning, and not just being the mourner. It’s also stressful, even downright terrifying, tending to, or even just visiting, someone who is in mourning. Do you dread visiting someone who is mourning? Do you worry that you won’t know what to do when you see them, fear that you won’t know what to say? Good! It is better to begin from a place of uncertainty when heading into this delicate situation than entering in as if you know what to say, what to do, or have the answers to make their suffering go away. We aren’t there to entertain them. We aren’t there to be entertained. We aren’t there to shoot the breeze, chit chat about sports, news or local gossip. We certainly aren’t there to enlighten them with theological explanations of why their loved one is dead or offer our philosophical musings on how their loss is actually “a good thing.” Our purpose when visiting someone who is in mourning is to bring them comfort – period. This is why, within Judaism, when visiting a mourner, the first rule of thumb (actually a law), is this – don’t speak to the mourner until spoken to. It is a reminder that we are there for them, not the other way around. If they initiate conversation, if that is what t brings them escape from their darkness, reprieve from their hell, and comfort amidst a sea of suffering, then reciprocate. If they want to talk about sports – talk. If they want to talk about the most recent episode of Downton Abbey – talk. If they want to talk theology regarding death – don’t be original or insightful, just speak compassionately, but mostly just sit there and listen. And if they just want to sit in silence – be silent. You don’t have to dread these visits. You don’t have to be brilliant. You don’t have to be a healer. You don’t have to know what to say or do. All you have to do is be humble. All you have to do is be considerate. All you have to do, and it is more than you realize, is to show up, be present, sit with them and listen. And that, my friends, will bring them healing and so much more. Carry The Fire, Rabbi B

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Shayna Rehberg
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Shayna Rehberg straddles the Gen X/Millennial divide in Tzfat with her four unique and creative children as an ‘unlabeled’ Jew. In all her spare time she also enjoys music, photography, blogging, collecting knives and teacups, swapping stories, and shopping in the shuk.